Do unto others
1. Recognize the Context: Previous Context-James 2:1-4
The backdrop of James 2:1-4 is Leviticus 19:5, which states, “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.”
James instructs his fellow believers not to show favoritism or partiality. He follows this imperative with a hypothetical, but very practical situation concerning the poor and the rich. In this scenario, the wealthy in the congregation receive special attention and preferred seating. The poor receive exactly the opposite treatment.
This section concludes with a rhetorical question, “Have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? An affirmative answer is expected if one acts in this manner to the rich and poor. Ultimately, this social and economic prejudice is grounded in evil thinking.
2. Read the Scripture: James 2:5-7
5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?
3. Reflect on the Scripture: James continues to address the mistreatment of the poverty-stricken by moving from the hypothetical to the actual. Verse 5 begins with the imperative, which calls for the readers' attention. This is followed by another rhetorical question expecting an answer in the affirmative. The question considers those who love God but are poor by earthly standards. By God’s standards, these people are actually rich in a spiritual sense (Rev. 2:9), and they will inherit God's kingdom (Luke 6:20-22, Matt. 5:3-12).
Some in the church have dishonored the poor by their actions. James continues with three thought-provoking rhetorical questions for these individuals.
The first question reminds the church they were being exploited by the wealthy. Ironically, those in the church mistreat the poor in the same way they are being mistreated.
The second question reminds them the wealthy have taken them to court. If a person couldn't pay a debt, they could be taken to court, and any assets seized. It could also involve servitude until the debt was paid.
The third question reminds them these wealthy individuals were outside the church, and they blaspheme the name of Jesus Christ.
4. Relate to life:
Now it's time to get specific and respond today. Remember, it is important to be a doer of God’s Word, not merely a hearer or reader (James 1:22-25). Here are some practical ways to actively respond to God’s Word. Consider these or create other ways you can apply the message.
Today, prayerfully reflect on how you respond to the poor and those in need.
Today, prayerfully consider how you treat people when others mistreat you. Do you mistreat people when you have, in turn, been mistreated?
Today, prayerfully consider how you respond when you see those outside the church mistreat fellow Christians in your presence.
To do: (work produced by faith with the Holy Spirit’s help) Given the prayer suggestions above, how do you need to respond today? Think about your attitudes, actions, and words. Think about your family, friends, church community, and co-workers. What specific actions can you take today? What about those in your church?
To study: (Always make sure to read the immediate context of the given passages).
Read and study the passages listed above.